Hermiston Irrigation District Manager Celebrates 20 Years of Service

July 30—HERMISTON — This week, Hermiston Irrigation District Manager Annette Kirkpatrick celebrated 20 years with the district.

Over the past two decades, Kirkpatrick has remained one of the few female district leaders in the state and has made steady progress toward modernizing the region’s irrigation systems.

Kirkpatrick is currently the only full-time female district manager in Oregon. Still, she credited her fellow female irrigation industry leaders — and managers across the state — for fostering a collaborative environment.

“We all support each other and it’s nice to have that camaraderie between us,” she said. “We can get information from each other and share experiences.”

Kirkpatrick started in the district in 2002, after moving from California to eastern Oregon. She became its manager in 2015.

“Historically, a lot of irrigation district managers were people who had experience in construction and irrigation,” she said of her predecessors.

With a background in legal research, business management and accounting, Kirkpatrick was an unlikely candidate. But when it came to tackling ever-changing irrigation practices and growing modernization efforts, his stint in law firms and accounting firms proved useful.

“District needs have changed over time, with my skills matching more closely with the most recent job description,” she said, noting that her talent for legal research comes in particularly handy when applying for modernization grants.

With a system of supply canals, ditches and lines that dates back to 1906, Kirkpatrick and his team are working to modernize the district’s infrastructure, improve water supplies and supplies for residents of Hermiston and surrounding farms.

The Hermiston Irrigation District serves 1,286 customers and approximately 10,000 acres of irrigated land in and around the town of Hermiston. It has become one of the most lucrative agricultural regions in Oregon.

Irrigated crops such as vegetables, grains, alfalfa hay, pastures and grass seeds dominate the region’s agricultural production, bringing with it a large livestock industry. One of the most lucrative crops in the region is watermelon, with around 45,000 tonnes produced each year.

One of the district’s largest ongoing projects is the Line B pipeline. According to Kirkpartrick, the project will save approximately 2,000 acre-feet of stored Cold Springs Reservoir water each year.

Kirkpatrick dubbed the most recent modernization plans the biggest highlight of his 20 years in the district. After hearing conversations about the B-line piping over the past two decades, it’s been a long time coming.

“To finally see it come to fruition is very exciting for me,” she said.

The B-Line project is still in the scoping period and will move into the public comment period soon. The public, patrons and other entities can find out more about the potential project.

Kirkpatrick noted that this coordination period is an important step in maximizing the benefits of the project for the community. The district also discussed installing new fiber optic lines and fire hydrants as the project progresses in more rural parts of the district.

“Now is a good time to install new utilities in this same area,” she added.

The district has also completed other modernization projects, including converting hundreds of acres of land from flood irrigation to sprinkler systems. Projects like this have resulted in significant water savings and efficiency improvements in the region.

The district also participates in the Umatilla Basin Project, an effort that began in the 1980s to restore instream flows and improve conditions for threatened and endangered fish. The project provides water from the Columbia River to the District of Hermiston, in exchange for the District leaving an equal amount of water in the Umatilla River.

Kirkpatrick also serves on many local boards and committees, including the Oregon Water Resources Congress Board of Directors.

This year, she began her first term on the Hermiston City Planning Commission. Kirkpatrick felt the position gave him the chance to help coordinate the city’s land use planning with the district’s urban modernization efforts.

“It just gives me a really good opportunity to be in the room and make those connections,” she said.

Looking ahead, Kirkpatrick hopes to continue modernizing the district’s systems, with a focus on water efficiency and conservation.

“I think it’s really exciting to see the town continue to grow and to see the district continue to provide the resources that our farming community needs,” she said.

Shannon Golden is a reporter for The Observer. Contact her at 541-624-6015 [email protected]

Daniel E. Murphy